If we look back in history, Through the last 2000 years and beyond into the times of the biblical old testament, we see a constant thread of violence and war and very few times of stability and peace. In the first reading today, we see King Ahaz of the Kingdom of Israel at war with the Northern Kingdom which was in league with Syria trying to take over the Southern Kingdom or Israel. The prophet to Ahaz was Isaiah who pleaded with him to place his trust in God and not in men and fleeting alliances. Ahaz was a King of Israel in the line of David and as such should have been one to trust in God. Isaiah told him to ask for a sign but Ahaz refused. Instead Isaiah gave him a sign that “a young woman”(almah) would conceive and give birth to a son Immanuel. In that time it was a sign to Ahaz that he would have a son and the Davidic line would be carried on in his son Hezekiah. In calling on that text, and using the Greek translation of that translates to “parthenos” which means “virgin” and most aptly applies to Jesus and his birth and his name, placing him distinctly in the line of David.
Now let us turn to the account about Joseph and his fear and his concern for Mary and wanting to do the right thing. Joseph was a man of his time and culture. Finding Mary pregnant meant that she was having another man’s child and for him it was not honorable or right to claim Mary. The culture of his time and place are much different that what we know as our own, and so perhaps we misunderstand his concern mixed probably with his compassion and love for Mary. I think few of us would think that we would make a decision based on a dream or experience during our sleep. Yet, Joseph experienced a dream or vision that convinced him that taking Mary was the right thing to do. He would accept Jesus and name as the Angel said. Yet, the message to Joseph was different from all the messages given by God before. In announcing Jesus to Joseph as “God come to save us” is from our sins and not some physical thing as through times before. It is an announcement of a messiah far different from what many expected.
Today, we are about to celebrate once again the sign of Mary giving birth to Jesus. As Christians we prepare and reach out and try to give in a small way to follow what Jesus called us to do in repenting and looking out for each other, especially the poor. Yet, if we look at the world around us, here in our home State, or Country or around the World, Jesus’ work is not done. War, violence, evil, poverty, hunger, disease are present wherever we look. Within our communities, we find Christ and his love, but truly we are called to reach out to share, to spread that love. I don’t think anyone here is called to some far off place to a gigantic mission. But, each of us is called everyday, and seriously do we answer each opportunity to share and spread that love that has been so freely given to us. The birth of a child is the most love fulfilling sign to any woman or man. A newborn embodies all that is good in all of humanity. That it what makes Christmas so special and calls us to celebrate life and family and looking out for others. As next Sunday approaches, remember Jesus came to save us from sin and evil and bring us to His Father.